Laboratories, Workshops and Testing Facilities

Laboratories, Workshops and Testing Facilities

The National Oceanography Centre has a range of laboratories, workshops and testing facilities available to the marine science community and external organisations.

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 Telephone: +44 (0)23 8059 6486

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Molecular biology facility

Molecular biology facilityThe molecular biology and microbiology facility are a set of Class 2 analytical labs set up to do molecular biology and microbiological culturing. We have a preparation lab that is kept amplicon free, set up to do DNA and RNA extractions of environmental samples. We also have a general microbiology and molecular lab with a range of equipment, from safety cabinets to qPCR machines and a MiSeq desktop sequencer.

Key equipment includes:

  • MiSeq desktop sequencer – allowing access to focused applications such as targeted gene sequencing, metagenomics, small genome sequencing and targeted gene expression.
  • Bench top and real-time PCR machines
  • Range of Class 2 and Class 3 safety cabinets
  • Range of water baths, incubators, fridges and freezers (including a −80°C freezer)

Calibration laboratory

The calibration lab is a temperature controlled space and is split into two parts, a small work area and a larger dedicated calibration space. The larger calibration space includes the range of equipment necessary for high quality temperature, salinity and pressure calibrations. The smaller work area is a more flexible space where sensor construction, testing and data review is undertaken. Both areas have a sink with a sea water supply in the calibration space.

Calibration laboratoryKey equipment includes:

  • Guildline Portasal
  • Fluke seawater calibration baths
  • Guildline 5010 seawater calibration bath
  • Gallium temperature reference
  • Mercury triple point reference
  • Water triple point reference
  • Budenburg dead weight tester
  • High accuracy and stability (± 2 mK) plain water calibration bath
  • Soldering station
  • Work desk

Rock physics laboratory

The NOC Rock Physics Laboratory (RPL) specialises in experimental studies of geophysical phenomena in marine sediments and rocks. Research undertaken in the laboratory aims to further the understanding of fundamental interactions between sediment/rock properties and their elastic and electrical properties.

Key equipment includes:

  • 50mm diameter core plug rigs
    We operate four 50mm diameter core plug high pressure (max. 60MPa) testing rigs, instrumented for measuing frequency-dependent P- and S-wave velocity and attenuation (0.1–1.0 MHz), Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT) and Electrical Resistivity Anisotropy (ERA). The rigs are temperature controlled (−10°C to 50°C) and can inject a range of pore fluids (air, water, brine, oil, methane, CO2 and mixed phase). The rigs can also measure sample strain and in situ absolute and relative permeability using various steady state and transient methods.
  • 70mm diameter impedance tube
    The impedance tube can accurately measure P-wave velocity and attenuation over the frequency range of many sonic logging tools (1–10 kHz). The 5m long impedance tube can accommodate 70mm diameter samples of hard or soft sediment up to 1m in length. The impedance tube is also instrumented with our ERT and ERA systems and is temperature (0–50°C) and pressure controlled (0–60MPa) enabling a wide variety of experiments to be performed, e.g., gas hydrate and carbon capture and storage (CCS) studies.

Optics workshop

Optics workshopThe optics workshop is a space with temperature and humidity management and no external windows. This is a requirement for a number of investigations, especially for optical studies. The workshop is currently undergoing re-purposing where a range of integration, calibration and validation work can be performed.

Key equipment includes:

  • Environmental chamber (0.6 × 0.6 × 0.75 m internal volume)
  • Wafer probe station (can accommodate 8” wafers or similar planer samples, two probes available for applying test waveforms to samples)
  • High accuracy and stability (± 2 mK) plain water calibration bath
  • Sink with reverse osmosis supply

In the future the optics workshop will include more space for testing the integration of various sensors, short-mid term storage for equipment required for regularly deployment, workstations for performing minor electronics work and greater calibration potential (temperature, salinity and dissolved oxygen).

Sensors workshop

Sensors workshopThe sensors workshop is the main facility where the microfluidic chips are cut, assembled and tested and prepared for ocean deployments. The workshop includes milling machines for cutting the chips, a darkroom for setting up and assembling the optics for the chip detection systems and soldering stations for the chip assembly. In addition, sensor housings are also assembled in the workshop with the option of oil filled housings if required.

The main three types of sensors assembled in the sensors workshop are nitrate, phosphate and pH sensors. All three sensors use the same chip footprint but with different microfluidic configurations.

Key equipment includes:

  • LPKF ProtoMat S100 micro-milling machines
  • Quality control Zeta 20 3D optical profiler
  • Optical alignment equipment from ThorLabs
  • Soldering stations for chip assembly

Several of our workshop spaces are specialised for the building of autonomous and robotic vehicles, which can then be tested in our specialised on-site testing facilities. These facilities are available for use by partners of the Marine Robotics Innovation Centre. Hire to external members of the marine science community can also be negotiated on a case-by-case basis:

Glider workshop

Glider workshop

  • Work benches for four gliders
  • Half tonne overhead gantry
  • Celling mounted power
  • Cupboards/lockable storage

Large vehicle workshop

  • 10 tonne overhead gantry
  • Roller doors to dockside access
  • 3D prototyping
  • Laser cutting

Hangar workshop

  • 5 tonne overhead gantry


Testing facilities (systems reliability lab)

Pressure testing facilityState-of-the-art testing facilities including pressure vessels and environmental chambers are available to hire at the NOC. These facilities enable the testing of all types of marine autonomous vehicles.

  • Freshwater and saltwater ballasting tanks
  • Environmental test chamber with shaker
  • Pressure testing facility, including two hyperbaric pressure testing facilities and an immersion test tank
  • Salt spray test chamber
  • Co-ordinate Measuring Machine room
  • Battery testing facility
  • Calibration laboratory
  • Communication aerial mast
  • Waterfront launching capability

Pressure testing facility

Includes two hyperbaric pressure-testing facilities and an immersion test tank.

Pressure Test Tank PV1

  • 952.5mm diameter × 1206.6mm deep
  • PC controlled with hard copy on line reports available
  • Working Pressure up to 680 bar
  • The main lid has three entry/exit ports for monitoring equipment during the tests

Pressure test tank PV2

  • 304.8mm diameter × 889mm deep
  • Manual system
  • Working Pressure up to 680 bar
  • The lid has a single entry/exit port

Immersion tank

Autosub Long Range being ballasted in the immersion tankWe have a 5m × 4m × 4m water depth test tank. A crane allows large items of equipment to be easily handled into and out of the tank. Windows in the sides of the tank allow for inspection of submerged items. Facilities exist for acoustic measurements, e.g., circle diagram plotting for transducers.

Other facilities

Other specialist testing and workshop facilities on the University of Southampton’s Highfield and Bolderwood campuses are available to access, subject to availability. These facilities include:

  • Rapid prototyping
  • Towing tank
  • Wind tunnels

If you would like more information about the hire of our workshop and testing facilities, or would like to see specification documents for each of our facilities, contact us.